Rating: *** (out of ****)
A fine, passionate film, but not, in my opinion, the masterpiece that it's so clearly straining to be. (This is the kind of film in which, if a character is required by the plot to wander the desert for three days, he will just happen to stagger in stunning silhouette before an enormous, blood-red setting sun.) The main problem, apart from the occasional visual hyperbole, is that the film is unbalanced; the African flashback scenes, featuring Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas, are glorious (yes, that is the right word), but the Tuscany sequences, which involve characters played by Juliette Binoche and Willem Dafoe and Naveen Andrews, and which by rights should be equally vital and fascinating, essentially form a very prolonged and not terribly compelling framing device. (This was not true of Michael Ondaatje's novel, as I understand it.) Still, the half (somewhat more then half, actually) that works is as good as epic romanticism gets, and both Fiennes and Scott Thomas are magnificent. Especially Scott Thomas. "Wow" is a word I might use.